Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises

It's hard to get into without divulging spoilers, but I can say that The Dark Knight Rises is a fitting conclusion to the trilogy. As a guy who likes to write stories about ordinary people thrown into far-out situations, I admire Nolan's ability to take the fantastical and keep it grounded enough to connect with the average moviegoer. Too often we get summer blockbusters that are all sound and fury, yet signifying nothing -- I'm looking at you Michael Bay.  

After the deaths of Harvey Dent and Rachel Dawes, Bruce Wayne/Batman (Christian Bale) has been in seclusion for the last eight years. But now a terrorist called Bane (Tom Hardy) has set his sights on Gotham. Can The Batman return to form and take on his most dangerous adversary yet?

Clearly, this is the most ambitious story in the trilogy. Everything is bigger this time around, stakes and obstacles. Bane is more than Batman's equal, physically and intellectually. The consequences of past actions comes back to haunt Gotham City in a big way. This is an old fashioned crime thriller played out on an epic scale -- with a protagonist who likes to dress up like a six-foot bat. Nolan tosses in some ripped-from-the-headlines elements to make the story even more relatable.

With all that said, this is not a perfect film. In fact, there are more things to pick at than the previous films combined. Characters make choices that seem illogical or a case of lazy storytelling just to reach certain plot points, which is highly uncharacteristic of a Chris Nolan film. The ending itself isn't forced, but the script feels like it needed a few more passes. Some critics have argued the film should have been split in two, in order to flesh things out -- not the worse idea I've ever heard...

It would have been impossible to duplicate Heath Ledger's Oscar winning performance as the Joker. Thankfully, Tom Hardy doesn't try to go there. Bane is his own uniquely scary entity. And while I had some reservations about the casting of Anne Hathaway, she gives a solid turn as Selina Kyle. Marion Cotillard also gives a memorable turn as Miranda Tate. I've made the argument in the past that female characters have had little to do in Nolan's Dark Knight universe, but this isn't the case here.

All in all, I guess I'm trying to say The Dark Knight Rises is a good film with some great parts, but not on the level of Batman Begins or The Dark Knight. It'll be interesting to see how it holds up 2-3 years from now. I found an outstanding interview with Nolan about The Dark Knight Rises on a recent podcast of The Treatment. It's only around 30 minutes long, but gives tremendous insightt into his process. In fact, I liked it so much that I rounded up links to other Treatment episodes with Nolan on Batman Begins and The Dark Knight.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Query Like A Boss!

I came across a handy add-on for Gmail (via lifehacker) called Right Inbox. It allows you to schedule e-mails to be sent at a specific time, which is cool in itself, but the more interesting feature is the ability to track e-mails. The majority of our query letters will go unanswered, but now you can determine if someone is actually reading them. I sent out a few and it worked like a charm. While the service is $4.95 a month for unlimited e-mails, there's also a free version limited to 10 e-mails monthly.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

8 x 10 Tasveer

A forest ranger (Akshay Kumar) with the ability to astral project himself into photographs and witness past events, tries to determine if his wealthy father's death was the result of foul play.

I'm still not entirely sold on Bollywood, but it's next to impossible for me to pass up a thriller with supernatural elements. My current script has something to do with photographs so that piqued my interest as well.

Unfortunately, 8x10 Tasveer fails on a very basic level: nothing's at stake. If Jai can't prove his father was murdered, the story could basically end with a disinterested shrug. There's no sense of urgency. We get a few obligatory action/suspense sequences, but they accomplish very little in terms of raising the stakes. There are some nonsensical restrictions placed on his ability to create tension (if the photograph is destroyed, he'll be trapped inside forever!!), but I wasn't buying it. A good thriller should have a protagonist feeling like he's running out of options, friends/allies. His back should be up against the wall.

When we finally get around to the big reveal, something ripped straight from the big book of soap opera clich├ęs, all you can do is groan. This is right around the time when the acting goes from average to terrible. The attempt to tie his ability and a childhood trauma to present events just doesn't work. I almost wished there were some musical numbers to breath a little life into the story -- almost.

I could chalk this all up to being clueless about Bollywood sensibilities, but audiences didn't care for the film either. It was both a critical and commercial disappointment.

While I was searching for a trailer with English subtitles, I found the entire film on youtube. Have at it, but you were warned!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Underworld: Awakening

I've slowly come to the realization that I expect way too much from the Underworld franchise. Despite the intriguing premise of a hidden war between vampires and werewolves lycans, they're simply suped-up action movies with classic movie monsters. The subtext of the first film, the fear/hatred of miscegenation, seems like a distant memory. Not sure why I keep hoping for more character development. This is the fourth installment of franchise that's grossed almost half a billion dollars. If it ain't broke...

I guess I've been spoiled by Bryan Singer's take on X-Men and what Chris Nolan did with Batman. Films with fantastical elements AND relatable characters/situations. If you're emotionally invested in the characters, that cool action sequence becomes even cooler.

While it's hard not to appreciate Kate Beckinsale strut around in latex and kick butt, where's the fun in watching a character with zero depth?

Lycans and Vampires are no longer hidden in the shadows. As a matter of fact, it's open season on supernatural creatures. Selene has been in a cryogenic sleep for the last twelve years, but now she's awake -- get it? Selene's goal is to find her lover Michael and protect a young hybrid that everyone seems to want.

Hard to believe it took four screenwriters to come up with that. There's a half-hearted attempt at a mother-daughter relationship between Selene and Eve, the young hybrid, but it falls flat. Someone must have been digging around in Milla Jovovich's trash, because the story seems like a mash up of the bad parts of Ultraviolet and whatever Resident Evil flick we're up to.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

9 Months Later...

I get a response from a production company informing me that they don't accept unsolicited screenplays. It took nine months just to say, 'We're not interested.' Don't they think I might have gotten the hint by now? It's not like I was flooding their inboxes on a weekly basis with desperate e-mails. I queried a few places earlier in the year, but my focus has been procrastinating writing. Thank God I didn't plunk down money on some screenwriting contests because my supernatural thriller was so not ready. Still not exactly sure when it will be...

My last script got some reads, did well in a few minor contests, but in the end, it just wasn't good enough. There's no shame in admitting it. The only thing I can do is try to learn from my mistakes and move on.


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